by Patrick Ruhl
Living in a town with 450 years of history can be overwhelming. Tour buses cover the roads, state and national landmark plaques are everywhere you turn and the sense of colonial nostalgia fashioned by horse carriages trotting down the cobblestone streets fill one’s mind with never-ending visions of what has comprised 450 years of history. St. Augustine, Florida, is home to not only the oldest town in America, but carries a prominent maritime history that dates back centuries.
My work at the St. Augustine lighthouse is headed by Sam Turner and the LAMP (Lighthouse Archeological Maritime Program) department and deals directly with St. Augustine colonial port logs during the 1760s. I am currently working with the data taken from the actual eighteenth century port records. With this data, it has been my job to create new, more detailed statistic sets that will help the officials at LAMP analyze specific trends and disclosures among the data more easily. Along with this, Dr. Turner has allowed me to do some analyzing projects of my own. Most recently I have been looking at the increase of vessel crews versus the tonnage of the rigs, and have gone further to split up these into different categories of vessel models.
So far the internship has been very enlightening, as I did not realize how much shipping came in and out of British Florida on a daily basis during their time of colonizing the southern state. I am hoping to see how port records begin to change when the time period gets closer to the Revolutionary War era, as British East Florida was considered as a hub of safety for many Loyalist families and forces. Every day I work with Dr. Turner and the other wonderful people at LAMP I take in new facts about the maritime life of the oldest town in America. The deeper I venture into the maritime history of St. Augustine the more I realize that the picturesque buildings that cover the town are not the only things that withhold the grand history of the amazing area I now call home.